European foreign exchange students travel to OHS for the year

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Paiton Glynn

The pin points on this map indicate where all OHS foreign exchange students are from.

Paiton Glynn, Writer

Imagine leaving behind friends, family and a familiar life to go to school in a different country for a whole year. That is what the foreign exchange students at OHS are experiencing right now. Eight students are here from various countries including Germany, Italy, Spain and France. Being able to embrace American culture has been very interesting for them and has been a compelling learning experience. As their trip is reaching its half way point, some students are open to expressing their experience so far. 

There are many things that Americans overlook when it comes to their culture. Some things that may come to mind are fireworks, football and twinkies. However, the OHS foreign exchange students have a different idea of what it means to be American. Manon Hablitz, a junior from France, says her favorite thing about the U.S. so far has been Kwik Trip. Hablitz said, “I love their breadsticks and donuts.” Before she arrived in Owatonna, Hablitz was told not to have any expectations and to just take in the experience for what it is. Some of the biggest culture shocks for Hablitz have been the idea of neighborhoods and tipping. Hablitz said, “In France we don’t tip, so the first time I went out to eat I was shocked and didn’t know how to react.” 

As far as high school goes, Hablitz has found it to be a surreal experience. Hablitz said, “This fall I was a football cheerleader and it was something I always dreamed of.” She continued to describe how she loved the school spirit rooted in American schools. She is excited to go to more sporting events, get a lettermans jacket, and walk across the stage at graduation. Before she leaves in June, Hablitz hopes to get a Build-A-Bear and go ice skating. 

Hablitz’s American experience has been very similar to that of Italian student Giorgia Danielli. One thing they both can agree on is that they love the snow. Danielli said, “I really like the snow because we don’t get it in Italy so it’s a new experience.” As for Hablitz, seeing the snow has been a magical encounter, she said, “I feel like I’m in a real life Christmas movie.” Along with the snow comes various activities to do in the winter. Both girls have loved getting to go ice skating. Danielli said, “The first time I went ice skating I had so much fun and have gone multiple times since.” Danielli hopes to embrace more of her winter spirit as the season continues. 

Although she wished she could have been placed in somewhere warmer like California or Arizona, Danielli has found many ways to make the best of her time in Minnesota. In school, Danielli is involved in cross country and found it as a fun opportunity to meet new people and make friends. During the school day, she enjoys spending her time in science labs and working in new classes. Although Danielli finds herself homesick sometimes, she has found joy in traveling to new places like Missouri, Duluth and Minneapolis. As far as the rest of her trip goes, she hopes she can get the opportunity to go to the Mall of America. 

Both girls have learned a lot from their time here in America. Not only have they been able to immerse themselves into American culture, but they have learned a lot about themselves. Living on the other side of the world from their home, they are forced to become independent and outgoing. The girls’ main goal is to make the best of their time here and they do so by reaching out to others and trying new things. That being said, OHS students should put more time and effort into meeting the unique foreign exchange students at the school.